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This Week in MIT History

By Bushra B. Makiya

The dedication of the Cecil and Ida Green building occurred on October 7, 1964, the culmination of the Earth Science conference. The building was funded by a $6 million donation by Cecil Green and was designed by architect I. M. Pei ’40 and associates.

At 227 feet high, the Green building is the tallest building in the city of Cambridge and contains a weather tower, balloon shed, and experimental radar equipment. Due to its relatively central location on campus, the 23 story Green building houses many classes and departments in addition to Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science such as Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

Throughout the past 35 years, the Green building has been the site of many hacks and other traditional MIT activities. The annual Integrated Studies Program egg drop off the roof is just one example.

One of the most famous Green Building hacks was in 1993 on the Fourth on July, when hackers turned the top row of windows in the Green building into the world's largest sound meter. The meter was keyed to the radio and featured “cyclon scanning” light patterns, “IHTFP” in morse code, and one dimensional tetris in addition to light meter and a display complementing the fireworks.

In front of the Green building in McDermott court stands the “Great Sail,” a sculpture created to lessen the wind tunnel effect cause by breezes from the Charles, making it easier to get through the revolving doors at the foot of the building. It was designed by Alexander Calder in 1965. The sculpture was built in France and then reassembled here under his direction. It is 40 feet tall, weighs 33 tons, was made from 35 pieces of sheet metal, and is held together by 3,000 pounds of nuts and bolts. The sculpture was dedicated on May 7, 1966.

Pei, a Chinese architect, designed other buildings at MIT including the Dreyfus Chemistry Building (Bldg. 18), the Landau Building for Chemical Engineering (Bldg. 66), and the Wiesner Arts and Media Technology Building (Bldg. E15). In addition, he designed the John Hancock Building in Boston, the west wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, and the entrance to the Louvre in France.